After making a splash by signing Antrel Rolle to the most loaded contract a safety has ever seen, the Giants have been mostly undercover.
The Redskins acquired a franchise quarterback while the Eagles inaugurated a new one; the Giants signed Jim Sorgi.
Their stadium partners acquired Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers on both sides of the ball; the Giants decided to pursue depth at the safety position by signing Deon Grant.
In many ways, it has been a typical New York Giants off-season. After filling their biggest need, they have declined to convert their elite marketability into hefty contracts in an uncapped season. Instead, they have quietly been rearranging their draft board in anticipation for the biggest three days of the off-season.
The Giants handle their pre-draft business as if they were the FBI. They allegedly warned all agents to not reveal that their clients held private visits with the Giants or there would be hell to pay.
Skeptics believe that the Giants did this because they fully intend to draft the players they held visits with, and don’t want the rest of the league to know this.
Even bigger skeptics would believe the warning handed down from the Giants brass was intended to leak, leading some of the 31 other teams to think the Giants will devote their draft efforts to signing the prospects they visited with, when in reality it’s merely a decoy.
This game of cat-and-mouse creates false realities throughout the off-season, then utter confusion on draft day. “How could the Giants take Mathias Kiwanuka after signing LaVar Arrington?! I thought they already had enough pass rushers!”
Of course, this segued right into Ernie Accorsi’s “You can never have enough pass rushers” mantra that is still frequently referenced. With this in mind, here is who I believe the Giants will take with their 15th selection.
Jason Pierre-Paul- University of Southern Florida
At first I dismissed the possibility of the Giants drafting Pierre-Paul. His freakish athletic ability could not be denied, but his skinny 260-pound frame would lead to too many struggles as a 4-3 end.
While this may be true—and while it is likely he will be a project for the early stages of his career—Pierre-Paul may just have too many skills for the Giants to say no to, especially given the way last season transpired.
The Giants are going to have to re-establish themselves as a legitimate defensive threat around the league, but especially in the NFC East. DeSean Jackson ran wild under, past, and around a frighteningly bad Giants secondary, and Donovan McNabb would rarely miss him. You know why? Because he was comfortable.
It’s football 101: Get the quarterback nervous, and over time he’ll start hopping around in the pocket. Pretty soon his timing will be off with his receivers, and then the defense can start making some big plays.
The Giants were never able to disrupt McNabb’s rhythm last year. He generally knew what was coming, and the Giants didn’t have the personnel to overcome that. The importance of McNabb’s comfort level was accentuated in his final two games against Dallas, in which he looked lost.
He had receivers open, but missed them by a stride or two. Dallas’s pass rush, coupled with the flexibility of their schemes controlled McNabb for two straight games, and essentially triggered a trade to Washington. Case in point.
Pierre-Paul would give the Giants a shot to make opposing quarterbacks feel uncomfortable. In addition to his base 4-3 defense, Fewell reportedly is willing to throw out an occasional 3-4 group. Many believe that Pierre-Paul is best suited in a 3-4, with pass rushing skills that are said to parallel with DeMarcus Ware.
While it will take him years to reach that point of dominance, he would certainly provide a dangerous threat off the edge in passing situations. Although he only compiled 6.5 sacks last season, his pass rushing intangibles are off the charts, and may be too good to pass up on, even if Rolando McClain is still available—especially given the conflicting reports coming out regarding Crohn’s disease, which he admitted that he had only a couple of months ago.
The Domino Effect
With the Giants current stable of linemen, Osi Umenyiora is concerned with playing time. Now imagine the scenario in which the Giants bring in arguably the draft’s best end rusher that will be earning a top 15 draft pick salary.
Given the events of last season, it’s almost unimaginable that Osi Umenyiora would be a happy New York Giant in 2010. It would be terrific if he finally swallowed his pride and accepted a lesser role that would maximize the defense’s success, but it's never that easy in the NFL.
The drafting of Pierre-Paul would likely provoke Osi to take matters into his own hands, even if it comes down to giving the Giants front-office the Shockey treatment.
Steve Spagnuola has already acquired one of his ex-Giant defensive linemen this off-season—Fred Robbins—is he interested in another? Chris Mortensen placed the odds of the Giants trading their Pro Bowl end at 60-40, and that the Rams could be a possible suitor at pick No. 33.
If the Giants draft Pierre-Paul, they shouldn’t think twice about pulling the trigger on this deal. Given his performance last season, Umenyiora’s value should not be equivalent to the first pick in the second round of a loaded draft.
But Spagnuola witnessed first-hand the damage Umenyiora did just over two years ago in the Super Bowl (Osi had no sacks, but he was in Brady’s face all game). Coming off a dismal 1-15 season, adding a player with his track record could really pay off in a division that’s currently wide open.
I’m not saying this would immediately put the Rams in contention for the division title, but the Rams have the opportunity to build something within couple of years that could place them in prime position to compete for the division crown.
It’s an unlikely scenario, but if the deal is made, then the Giants can begin to address their linebacker concerns in that slot. If Sean Weatherspoon is there, the Giants will likely jump on him.
He’s better suited for Perry Fewell’s system than Rolando McClain because of his ability to run and cover, something Antonio Pierce was not able to do in his last couple of seasons as a Giant.
Weatherspoon is regarded as a first-round talent, but with the incredible amount of depth allocated throughout the draft, it is certainly feasible that he would fall to 33. But in the event he doesn’t drop, there will be a high-caliber player available for the Giants to swipe.
Or they can choose to trade down, as the 33rd slot will be an extremely hot commodity due to the renovated draft schedule.
If Osi doesn’t get traded to St. Louis, I still foresee him being traded at some point. It’s clear that he doesn’t want to be a Giant until he’s guaranteed a starting position, which isn’t going to happen, especially given the talent level of Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck. If they grab Pierre-Paul with the 15th pick, it may be a given that Osi will be playing elsewhere in 2010.
But after reloading their defense with a top-notch pass rusher and an exuberant middle linebacker, Osi's presence would hardly be missed.